The Link between Sleep, Stress and Hormones...
The word 'hormone' means 'to excite', which is exactly what hormones do. They are chemical messengers, secreted in tiny amounts from your endocrine glands. There are nine major endocrine glands in your body and the hormones they produce affect every cell in your body...
Sleep is so important to our daily functioning. If we don't get proper sleep, it will begin to configure our hormonal balance differently, increasing our cortisol, disrupting our blood sugar and insulin levels and over time leading us to rely on our adrenal (adrenaline) energy, which is our 'fight or flight' capacity. This is fine for short periods of time to rely on our body's capacity in this way, but over the long term this kind of energy patterning leads us into poor health and evermore complex problems. It begins to affect our gut, our ability to properly digest food and maintain bacterial homeostasis and then our moods and sensory system.
Sometimes increasing our intake of bioavailable magnesium, reducing our overall sugar intake (which means reducing alcohol, and processed foods, increasing fibre and protein) and hydrating properly can restore the balance, but for some of us even with good nutrition many of us sleep poorly.
Sometimes there are emotional causes disrupting our sleep. Unmitigated stress, anxiety about our relationships or feeling overwhelmed by a particular emotion can be a trigger of sleeplessness. Pain is a common reason for why we don't sleep well or much at all.
Rest, relaxation and 'deep listening' form the ‘sacred pause’, together these capacities allow and enable our bodies to discharge the trauma, the drama, the constant push that is required of us to make our way in these times. We need stillness and quietude. Without it there is no living, only hanging on.
"Our adrenal glands provide us with crucial hormonal support that we all need to get through the day with energy, enthusiasm and efficiency. If your adrenals are depleted, you are much more likely to suffer from fatigue...
...Many women who are tired all the time have adrenal glands that simply aren't functioning at their peak efficiency - usually as a result of chronic emotional, nutritional or other kinds of stress. Adrenal dysfunction is associated with symptoms such as foggy thinking, insomnia, hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), recurrent infections, depression, poor memory, headaches and cravings for sweets"
From the book, Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom by Dr Christiane Northrup MD [Piatkus Books]
The 'kidneys' in eastern medicine theory and diagnostics are associated with the appropriate development and maturation of the individual, fertility and reproduction, cardiovascular heath and ageing well. They are considered to be within the sphere of influence of a range of hormonal dynamics, help to regulate stress responses and underwrite much of our vitality.
Adrenals, Thyroid and Gut axis
Stress is one of those small words that encompass many things, it is different for everyone and will manifest in unique ways according to the individual.
Most of us realise that stress and its effects are a part of many of our signs and symptoms. As well, it is so often cited by health professionals as a precursor to, or indeed a reason for illness, that it has become a kind of mantra. And yet because it is so seemingly pervasive, it can be hard to discern or ascertain what is stressful to us individually. It becomes a noise in the background of sound that blends into our lives and slowly strangles our proper rest, relaxation and tranquility such that we hardly notice until our symptoms appear.
The gut is an underrated player in the way that we process emotion, and therefore manage stress. Whether we treat the digestive function directly or we treat the symptoms of stress, either way we are going to have an effect on the health and wellbeing of the body.
Hormones are carried in the blood, and acupuncture is great for having positive affects on blood circulation. (Yes so is exercise!) The thinking about blood circulation in eastern medical diagnosis includes the arterial and venous circulation, but it also considers the tiny capillary bed blood circulation that can be where the concept of 'stasis' begins. When the blood doesn't move as well as it should, it slows down or is understood to get static. It 'sticks' because the quality of the blood is considered 'old', 'dirty' or 'crappy'.
Acupuncture is an excellent therapy for moving and affecting the quality of the blood. So whether it's resisting going to bed because we might be tossing and turning for hours, insomnia, waking early or often through the night, if you are experiencing difficulties getting to sleep, or just feeling 'tired but wired' acupuncture can be a very useful, non pharmacological intervention for sleeplessness patterns, hormonal regulation, adrenal insufficiency and its associated symptoms.